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What to do before you start writing your IELTS essay

Published on April 23, 2018

If you want to make sure you know how to approach the essay section of the Writing section of IELTS, you are in the right place. Often people who write the test jump to writing too quickly and end up with a beautiful essay on the wrong topic. Sometimes they write about the topic but go off on a tangent that is barely related to the prompt.

If you don’t read carefully, you could impact your score significantly – even if you are fluent in English!

It’s therefore imperative that, before you write anything, you take a few minutes to clearly understand what the task is asking you to do.

Here are three simple steps to help you focus your efforts in the right direction.

1. Highlight the topic

One simple way to do this is to underline the main subject. For example, take a look at how the topics have been identified in these writing tasks:

A. Some think that the best way to stop people from eating unhealthy fast food is to increase the cost of buying it.Do you agree or disagree?

B. Computers are being used more and more in schools . Do the advantages of this trend outweigh the disadvantages?

C. Some people believe self-driving cars are a great innovation.Others believe that they are a dangerous development. Discuss both these views and give your own opinion.

D. In modern society, more and more people are relying on social media for news. Why do you think this is happening? Why are some people worried about this trend?

Now that you see the topic clearly, you are less likely to stray from it.

2. Draw Out The Questions You Need To Answer

Once you have identified the topic, isolate the key questions that you will be expected to address about it. Let me demonstrate how it’s done.

Here’s how you can change “discuss both views” tasks to questions:

Some people believe self-driving cars are a great innovation. Others believe that they are a dangerous development. Discuss both these views and give your own opinion.

Questions:

1. Why might some people believe that self-driving cars are a great innovation?

2. Why might some people believe that self-driving cars are a dangerous development?

3. What is my opinion in this matter?

With “agree and disagree” prompts you can change the primary statement into a question:

Some think that the best way to stop people from eating unhealthy fast food is to increase the cost of buying it. Do you agree or disagree?

Questions:

1. Is increasing the cost of buying unhealthy fast food the best way to stop people from eating it or is there a better way?

The “advantages outweigh disadvantages” are opinion questions with a twist.

Computers are being used more and more in schools. Do the advantages of this trend outweigh the disadvantages?

In order to give a comprehensive answer, you would need to address all three of these queries:

1. What are some advantages of computers being used in schools?

2. What are some disadvantages?

3. Do I think the advantages outweigh the disadvantages or not?

If you believe that the disadvantages are stronger than the advantages, you could show your opinion while you discuss the negative points in great detail. However, in your essay, you should still explore the advantages of the subject if you want a rating of 7 or above.

It’s really easy when the questions are obvious, such as in this one:

In modern society, more and more people are relying on social media for news. Why do you think this is happening? Why are some people worried about this trend?

Here the questions would be:

1. Why might more and more people be relying on social media for news?

2. Why might some people worry about this trend?

3. Be Sure To Formulate An Answer To All Of The Questions

Now that you can see how to identify the topic and the questions around it, you are more likely to prepare an essay that covers all of the task requirements and improve your chances of getting a higher score. Be aware that if you do not address all of the questions, you will lower your score.

So, take time to make sure you know exactly what to do before you dive into your writing. If you follow this advice, you can be more confident that you will achieve the score you need.